As a Temple University graduate, Thursday’s fourth and final game had a particularly special place in my heart, when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1) got set to take on the St. Joseph’s Hawks (2-0). In college, the Hawks were my Temple Owls’ fiercest rival, our arch nemesis. Typically, any time I was at a St. Joe’s game in my past, I was wildly inebriated and yelling obscenities at mothers and young children wearing St. Joe’s apparel, all the while treading the thin line of acceptable conduct at a college sporting event. I hated St. Joe’s and their ridiculous, haggard, constant wing-flapping hawk mascot. I hated their head coach, Phil Martelli, and his stupid, bald, head. But now, I’m a journalist, and all that has changed. Now, I have to be objective, right? Ah, to hell with it, I hope the Hawks get crushed.
The Hawk’s junior guard Carl Jones had a hot hand early, draining a few tough shots to start out with seven points. Georgia Tech’s balanced attack kept it close, and junior Mfon Udofia’s eight points helped them build an 18-15 lead with 7:12 to play in the first half. With about five minutes left on the clock, 6’5″ Yellow Jacket sophomore Jason Morris drove hard to the basket, taking off from close to 15 feet and elevating towards the rim, ultimately missing the difficult lay-up but garnering a collective “Ooooh” from the crowd as he put his impressive leaping ability on display. Red-shirt sophomore Kammeon Holsey followed up the miss to put Georgia Tech up by five.
Next to the St. Joe’s bench, Martelli paced up and down the sideline with his arms locked behind his back and his hairless cranium glimmering in the light like some sort of homing beacon. He removed his arms with a rapturous flinging when junior Carl Jones connected with a three, cutting the growing Georgia Tech lead to one with about a minute remaining in the first half. Unfortunately for Phil and the Hawks, the half ended on a spectacular turnaround jumper by Holsey, which extended his team’s lead to five heading into the break. The teams were even from the field midway though, both shooting 36 percent. However, the Hawks were five of nine from three, which kept them in the game, seeing as the Jackets missed all six of their shots from deep.
St. Joe’s got off to a good start in the second half, tying it up at 31 just four minutes in and taking the lead not soon after on a Carl Jones three. Georgia Tech senior Nick Foreman answered with one of his own, evening things up at 34. As the Hawks began to get something going with a six-point advantage, Tech sophomore Jason Morris gave the Yellow Jackets a burst of energy as he grabbed an offensive rebound and powerfully slammed it home with one hand. They were unable to amount a run, though, as St. Joe’s came right back, finishing off a scoring frenzy with yet another Carl Jones three to make it 48-39.
The crowd had unmistakably cleared out for the day’s final game, and one man’s boos echoed in the nearly silent arena as St. Joseph’s sophomore Ronald Roberts shot free throws with eight minutes remaining. With under five to go, the Hawks led by twelve, and the Yellow Jackets didn’t manage to cut the lead to single digits for the remainder of the game.
As they so often did to my Temple Owls, the St. Joseph’s Hawks buried Georgia Tech with the deep ball, hitting 9 of 17, compared to just one all game from the Yellow Jackets. Phil Martelli and his linoleum lid walked away with a 66-53 victory in round one of the tournament, and they will face Seton Hall in the second round, set for 6 p.m. on Friday night.